Richard "Ricky" Leacock, the London-born filmmaker whose work with Robert Drew and D.A. Pennebaker would revolutionize and come to define a generation's view of documentary film, has died in Paris at the age of 89.
Reports of Leacock's death began to circulate on Twitter several hours ago and the French film site Allocine.com confirmed Leacock's passing. The Paris-based documentary festival Cinéma du Réel, which opens today, is planning to dedicate a portion of the festival to Leacock. Leacock and his partner/collaborator Valerie Lalonde moved to Paris in 1989 where they made such films as LES OEUFS ET LA COQUE.
"I wrote a detailed script with little drawings of each shot. Polly was script-clerk, Noel was my assistant. My father provided us with an ancient Morris-Oxford touring car. We made reflectors of plywood covered with silver paint, and we smoked cigars because that is what they did in Hollywood! Back at school I edited with rewinds and cement splices. Then we projected. I knew even then that the script was not sacred, that in filming you found things to be different and adjusted accordingly."
Soon after making CANARY BANANAS, Leacock would have the opportunity to meet Robert Flaherty, who happened to be the father of two of Leacock's classmates.
"He was outside in the schoolyard with a 16mm Kodak Cine-Special (a very fancy camera) mounted on a huge tripod (an Akeley-Gyro) and was filming Barbara McDermott combing her long blond hair. He went on and on. He changed angles, he changed lenses, but he went on and on and I thought, “He must be mad!” and she just kept on combing her hair. Later that day, Bill Hunter brought me to his room and introduced me to Mr. Flaherty and his wife Frances. Hunter had shown them my film and they said some nice things about it, though Mrs. Flaherty mentioned that they were not that impressed by the chop-chop editing of the water sequence. Mr. Flaherty concluded by saying that “Someday we will work together...” or some such, which I took with a huge pinch of salt."